The survivors of two experienced motorcyclists are suing the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the New Jersey State Police for failing to warn the bikers of the manmade road hazard that killed them.
Jude Bihari, 52 and Ronald Ross, 42, were killed by the same “edge trap” in separate accidents eight hours apart near Exit 57 on Interstate Highway 295 in Bordentown, New Jersey last Wednesday.
Bihari was a motorcycle commuter who lived in Bordentown and was on his way to work. He was just entering Highway 295 at 4 a.m. when he hit the edge trap, lost control of his 1997 Harley, went down and was struck by two other vehicles.
Ross was a master Harley-Davidson technician. He was ejected from his motorcycle when he hit the edge trap about noon. He later died of massive head and chest injuries.
Both men are remembered very fondly, Ross, for example, recently cut off his two-foot-long ponytail and donated it to a charitable group named Locks for Love which makes wigs for cancer patients.
An edge trap is the result of milling one lane in a multi-lane highway before that lane is resurfaced. The milled lane often feels like ice or oil to motorcyclists. When a road is milled poorly the resulting grooves may vary greatly in size and direction. The process also creates a lane that is two or more inches lower than the adjacent, un-milled lane. This disparity in the height of adjoining lanes is commonly called an “edge trap.” Both Bihari and Ross were trying to escape out of the milled lane when they died. Bihari was trying to do it in the dark.
“We wouldn’t have to go through all this if someone put a 75-cent flare down on the ramp,” Ross’ brother Robert told the Trenton Times.
There are no federal standards to ensure motorcyclists safety in road construction zones. No one in the federal government, which actively concerns itself with what kind of special hat motorcyclists should wear when they ride and how loud their bikes should be allowed to be, has ever heard of an edge trap. There are no federal standards on road milling. There has never been a Congressional hearing on the subject of motorcycle safety in road construction zones.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation issued a statement that said, in part: “The first priority of NJ DOT is to promote safety on New Jersey’s roadways. The department will explore additional steps, beyond the current state and national standards, to further promote safe travel through construction zones.”
The next day Timothy Greeley, the official spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said, “Obviously…the dangers posed by this type of situation are heightened for two-wheeled vehicles.”
The week before the deaths, a Washington lobbying group named Transportation for America released a report that said New jersey had the worst roads in the country.
The dead men’s survivors are contending that the bikers were not adequately warned of the road hazard they were about to encounter. New Jersey is expected to reply that they were.